WHEN Mthuli Ncube – who last week made headlines after invading a rhino conservancy – was named Finance minister in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet after the 2018 elections, many Zimbabweans at home and abroad gave a nod of approval, considering that he was held in high esteem.
He was seen as the man who could rescue the economy which was on a downward spiral, given his massive leadership experience, reputation and academic qualifications.
Besides being a holder of a PhD in mathematical finance from the prestigious Cambridge University, Ncube has also worked at the very top level of a number of prestigious institutions. He was previously chief economist and vice-president of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
As chief economist at the AfDB, he oversaw the economics complex, which was focused on the process of knowledge management and economic research.
As part of his duties, Ncube supervised the Development Research Department, Statistics Department and African Development Institute. As a vice-president of the AfDB, Ncube was a member of the senior management team of the bank and contributed to its general strategic direction.
Before his appointment as Finance minister, he was managing director and head of Quantum Global Research Lab in Switzerland, which is part of Quantum Global Group, the largest private equity group dedicated to investing in Africa.
He was also previously a regulator and a board member of the South African Financial Services Board (FSB), which regulates non-bank financial institutions in South Africa.
Ncube was also chairperson of the board of the African Economic Research Consortium, chairperson of the Global Agenda Council on “Poverty and Economic Development” (World Economic Forum) and a governor of the African Capacity Building Foundation.
He is also a distinguished academic as a professor at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom where he taught economic development, public policy and doing business in Africa, at both the SAID Business School, and Blavatnik School of Government.
He was also a distinguished professor of banking and financial markets at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
His curriculum vitae therefore is not just impressive but reflects his lofty status in the academy.
When he arrived in Zimbabwe, Ncube was projected as a technocrat with a well-crafted rescue plan for the troubled economy. That reputation was well earned.
He projected himself as a technocrat who was committed to tackling his tough mission and gave an impression that he was going to be far from intricate Zanu PF politics.
He is however now known as Mnangagwa’s scarf-wearing loyalist and a failure, who is undoing the strong global reputation he once held.
The scarf was first seen when Mnangagwa visited Davos, Switzerland, in January 2018 for the World Economic Forum where he reiterated the now tired “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
After the Davos meeting, Mnangagwa has continued to wear the scarf even in high temperatures.
He wears the scarf, be it at party events, government engagements or at his farm when receiving visitors.
For many in Zanu PF, the scarf is no longer for purposes of fashion or style and has since assumed mythical dimensions.
Recently citizens were caught on camera singing “Mnangagwa enda unodzosera scarf kwaNdunge” (Mnangagwa go and return the scarf to Ndunge).
Ndunge was a prominent traditional healer from Chipinge in Manicaland. The song implied that the late traditional healer gave Mnangagwa the scarf to impart him with spiritual powers to rule the country.
Other officials, including Ncube, wear the scarf as a sign of loyalty to Mnangagwa.
He has moved away from the earlier projection that he was a technocrat who would not dabble in politics and now does exactly what other rogue members of Zanu PF do, including land grabbing.
In June 2019, Ncube was said to be in the run to represent Zanu PF in the Lupane East by elections that had been set for 3 August.
Ncube is among senior government officials and diplomats who have seized the Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy, in a typical primitive wealth accumulation style. Mnangagwa’s brother Patrick is also among the invaders.
The conservancy is a high protected area because it is a territory of the endangered species.
The brazen invasions of the conservancy has now place Ncube’s name in the hall of shame despite his colorful CV of great international acclaim.
In next year’s elections, it would not be a surprise if Ncube contests for a parliamentary seat in order to entrench himself in the Zanu PF sytem.
Executive Director at Africa Economic Development Strategies, Visiting Professor of Economics at the Durban University and renowed economist Professor Gift Mugano, told The NewsHawks that Ncube had failed dismally in turning around the economy and described him as the worst finance minister since independence in 1980.
“In terms of performance since independence is the worst finance minister. He took office in October 2018 when inflation was a single digit. It was 5 percent per year on average and at one point he took inflation levels to over 1 000 percent that was around 2019 because inflation was 837 percent in July 2020.
“It was after he stopped publication of inflation figures. That was quite phenomenal and unprecedented. We have seen poverty levels rising from 29 percent to 49 percent almost doubling during his era. We used to have around 3.5 million people in poverty now we have 7.9 people in extreme poverty within three years and those are quantitative indicators of how he has performed.
“He has tried to speak of making surpluses but people now understand that he lied because of the condonation he sought in parliament where he announced that he spent over ZW$100 billion in 2020 which was on top of what had been budgeted for the year,” said Prof Mugano.
Senator David Coltart, the Citizens Coalition for Change Treasurer General (TG) also described Mthuli Ncube as a failure.
“His policies has brought extreme poverty in most areas that I am acquainted with like teachers who are now paid what I can say are slave wages. He insists on paying civil servants in RTGS dollars yet they have depreciated against the hard currencies.”
“The auction system he introduced is for the elite who have preferential access to forex at unrealistic rates and its never a true auction. He should have floated the currency and created equitable means for accessing the forex. He has also failed to deal with corruption at the RBZ,” he said. – Newshawks